By Simon ManchesterSunday 7 Dec 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Spiritual Backlash – Mark 1:21-34
We have prayed and we are going to look at our section this morning from Mark 1 from verse 21. We are in a little morning series called “Rediscovering Jesus” and I hope for us it is a rediscovering of the greatness of Jesus. We are working our way through Mark’s Gospel – a short section at a time. Today however we are looking at 14 verses from chapter 1 21-34.
What we have seen so far (if you are visiting today) is that Jesus has come to begin his earthly ministry and he has basically announced himself to be the King and he has begun to show himself to be the King. Calling people to follow him,supernatural experiences around him,spiritual battle and now we come to two little paragraphs which are going to show us more about this great King.
So if I was to ask myself the question – ‘if Jesus is the King,why should I follow him as he calls people to do’? The first paragraph is going to encourage me to follow him because it tells me that he speaks with great authority and he has great authority even over cosmic powers. Therefore I would be a fool not to follow him.
The second paragraph tells me that he has incredible love for people – patient,kind,generous and a giving love for people. Therefore I would be very blessed to belong to him. If however I ask the question ‘when will I get power and when will I get his love for me,could I have it immediately’? These two paragraphs give an excellent answer – but it’s not an expected answer – and so you’ll have to follow with me as we look.
I have a friend who has been asked to speak at a function on the title “What Does Jesus Bring Me”. As soon as I heard the title I thought that is such a classic consumer sort-of title. You know you can imagine someone saying ‘well let’s get so and so in to give a talk – and we’ll get them to talk on what does Jesus bring me’. And then friends will come,Christian friends and non Christian friends and my friend will be expected to say things like –
Jesus brings me purpose
Jesus brings me comfort
Jesus brings me direction
Jesus brings me happiness
And I don’t doubt that Jesus brings wonderful things – but the people sitting there would be saying to themselves – well how nice for you. I get all of that from a nice bottle of red wine but I’m glad you get that from Jesus – GOOD FOR YOU!
If we took the same topic “What Does Jesus Bring to Me” and asked some of our fellow Christians in Syria or Iraq to come today and speak to us in this building on what Jesus brings to them. I suspect they would say something like this –
Jesus brings me a huge amount of trouble – opposition – persecution – hatred from my family – abandonment but he is absolutely worth it.
And people sitting and listening to that sort of talk would say ‘well you’ve got to explain that – you’ve got to tell me what’s so great about him’ because the hostility and the opposition is huge.
Well I believe our verses today if they were being read by Christians in Syria or Iraq would be deeply comforting. I believe that these verses (we read them in our comfortable situation,relatively comfortable today) we will find them also deeply helpful.
Two points – the first little paragraph I’ve called Listen Well to Jesus’ Words. You notice he begins by teaching in the synagogue and then he speaks a word of great power to a man who is demon-possessed. Listen well to his words. That’s what people are doing in persecuted countries today. They are saying – I absolutely need what he says and we do too.
So let’s look at these verses together – chapter 1 verse 21. You see that it’s the Jewish Sabbath and Jesus goes into the synagogue which is of course where Jewish men would go and although he is not a trained Rabbi they give him an opportunity to teach which he would do normally by sitting. It’s slightly disappointing,isn’t it as you read this passage and you think Jesus is the King – he’s now going to do something exciting – and he starts preaching.
Those of you who hate sermons – this is a deeply disappointing verse. John Chapman famously said “there is nothing worse than bad preaching”. And he also said “there is better than good preaching”. We’ve all experienced both haven’t we – often at my hands?
Jesus’ preaching is absolutely gripping. Look at verse 22. It comes to these people like a bomb. We are told that he goes into teach and we are told in Mark’s Gospel 35 times “Jesus is a Teacher” so don’t ever fall for the trap of thinking that Jesus is just an action man who does miracles – he is a great and committed Teacher. But his authority (verse 22) amazes them.
I was trying to think what it would be like to go back in time in a Time Machine and be there listening to Jesus speak and I am asking myself – what would it be that would be so authoritative about him?
Is it that he speaks with an absolutely booming voice that causes all the furniture to shake? I doubt it.
Is it that he doesn’t quote other sources? (Which of course is what the Rabbis of that day used to do. They would quote so and so and so and so). And here is Jesus just speaking entirely for himself.
Is it that he is making claims about himself?
Is he opening an Old Testament passage and saying “This is me” “Here’s another passage – this is me”. That is stunning.
Or is it that the Spirit of God falls on his words so that the people are just cut to the heart?
Have you ever been in preaching where you are just cut to the heart?
Have you ever had that experience where you just don’t want to go and have coffee with anybody – you’d really like to go home and get on your knees and do business with God?
I wonder whether as Jesus spoke,people just sensed and knew that God was cutting them in half with his words. That he spoke with very very great authority.
Why does he go in to the Synagogue to teach and preach? Why doesn’t he go out into the open air and do miracles and get a much bigger crowd and basically just stand there like a one man hospital and just have everybody come past and make everybody well? Why does he go into the Synagogue to teach and to preach? Wouldn’t he do better if he rolled up his sleeves and did some action?
The answer is that he teaches because the world desperately needs information. The world needs verbal explanation. We need to know with a message in our ears and in our heads –
why the world is as it is,
who owns it?
where it’s come from,
where it’s going,
what we should do,
how we should respond – we need information.
When I am driving down the Gore Hill Freeway which is quite close to my road and the place is traffic banked right up to the back,and I am moving one car forward at a time,I am waiting for that luminous sign that says ‘ACCIDENT’ – ‘CONGESTION’ – ‘TUNNEL CLOSED’ – ‘FOOTBALL GAME’ because I need somebody to explain with a message what is going on.
Miracles don’t do that. Miracles are ambiguous. You can watch a miracle and be hardened. You can watch a miracle and be softened. People saw Jesus do miracles in his day and then they turned around and said ‘now let’s kill him’.
No we need a Teacher you see – we need someone who will say to us ‘there’s a King and he expects you to drop your weapons and he expects you to surrender to him and he will give you a pardon and he will give you a future – now is the time for you to take him seriously. That’s Jesus’ priority. That’s why he goes into the Synagogue to preach.
And friends,if you don’t believe me,just look at verse 23 – the devil gets this – that’s the shock isn’t it. The devil knows that the teaching and the preaching is his worst enemy. So the demons that have taken up residence in this man in the Synagogue start to shout out. We read in verse 23 “Just then (immediately) (the word immediately comes 40 times in the Gospel of Mark) as Jesus is preaching there is a man with a demon attacking,interrupting his teaching.
Now as soon as we see demons and a man with a demon we come back to the question which we asked a couple of weeks ago which is “Is the Christian faith a natural kind of thing or is it a supernatural thing?”
There are some people who look on Christianity and they say – O it’s obviously and completely harmless. It’s like a club,it’s like a gold club and it’s got its own rules and it’s got its own fees and people who like that sort of stuff go. It’s just a club.
However,the New Testament tells us that Christianity is supernatural. There is a God. There is a devil. There is a heaven. There is a hell.
Whenever I take “Christianity Explained” and we come to chapter 1 verse 23 of Mark’s Gospel we are right at the very beginning – I get a bit sort of defensive – I feel as though I have to start apologizing for devils and demons or at least I have to do some fancy foot work to explain them. I often find that many of the people who come to the Course don’t need any defence- they are absolutely ready to absorb the whole idea of spiritual forces. They are ahead of me on this particular issue.
But I do think it is important to see that as we read about demons and the devil in Mark’s Gospel – it’s not an accident that this has happening at the time when Jesus has come to do his ministry. I know there are people who tell us that demonic activity is very real and in other parts of the world extremely real.
And I don’t that but I don’t think we should miss the point that there is a lot of darkness happening because the Light of the World has come into the world. Here is Jesus,the Light of the World and he’s come and there is this spiritual backlash and the spiritual backlash takes place as Jesus teaches. You notice in verse 24 that the man who calls out – feels possessed. He calls out “What do you want with US”? It looks like it’s him and the demon or maybe demons. Jesus keeps on being concerned for the man and he speaks one authoritative word that the demon or demons would come out and he frees the man by speaking.
When the demon or demons speak to Jesus (verse 24) it’s quite aggressive. They literally say to him “what us to you? And you to us?” It’s like battle lines are being drawn up. And they identify him as the Holy One of God which is extremely unhelpful.
And I’ll tell you why it’s extremely unhelpful because by identifying who Jesus is but not what he has come to do (which is to die on the cross) they elevate him as some kind of hero,some Messianic hero which is going to confuse anybody who is listening because if they have got pre-conceived ideas that the Messiah when he comes will ride a horse and conquer the Romans,that’s just not going to happen.
So the devil is doing the work which he always does which is to confuse the people and make my life more difficult by identifying that Jesus is very special but not saying what he’s come to do. Do you notice,therefore,that the devil or the demons believe in Jesus and they know about Jesus but they don’t relate to Jesus? James tells us in his letter that people in church who know about Jesus but don’t yet know Jesus are in a very serious situation.
I was reading an autobiography recently and one of the great sports commentators (it’s just come out) and he says at the beginning of the autobiography “Our family are Christian”. He then proceeds through the whole book to blaspheme and blaspheme.
So I have written him a friendly letter to say I like you and I really appreciate your work. You do know about Christ – it’s just obvious you don’t know Christ because you don’t blaspheme when you know Christ. You don’t throw his name around when you know him.
And we ought to be nervous about the idea of knowing about Christ but not knowing Christ.
Well the crucial point to notice is that at the end of this whole episode having preached and having cast out a demon – look at verse 27 – the people say “this person Jesus is amazing,he has great authority,he teaches with great authority and he commands even an evil spirit with great authority.” If I had just seen a person cast out a demon,I would have forgotten about the preaching,the sermon. I would have just said ‘this is amazing; he just cast out a demon’. But they don’t,they say he is amazing and he taught with amazing authority and he cast out an evil spirit. Because this is God who has come into this world and he is speaking like God in his world.
What does he want to do in the Synagogue? He wants to teach the Gospel.
What does he do to free a possessed man? He speaks.
And we are going to stand on very safe ground therefore if we believe that his words are powerful because they are – and if we stand on his words.
Now I’d love to spend some time (days) with you thinking about –
how the devil attacks the word of God –
how he does that in your mornings –
how he does that in your timetable –
how he does that through your doubts –
how he does that in our Services –
how he does that on the Mission Field –
I’d love to think with you for days about how the devil attacks the ministry of the word of God. I’ll just give you a couple of quick examples –
Think for example about our Moore College which we prayed for and gave thanks for a couple of weeks ago. Moore College (if you ever go to visit) is not really a very impressive looking place. It’s like the Apostle Paul – not much to look at – but great work being done at Moore College.
And the fact of the matter is that there are so many people who go out of Moore College having been trained in the Word who then take up Pastoral Ministry in other cities around Australia and are deeply disliked but greatly blessed.
And around this country there are people who are trained at Moore College,exercising ministries in Adelaide and Perth and Brisbane and Darwin and in Tasmania but their ministry is deeply disliked by the wider church but wonderfully blessed by God – wonderfully blessed by God.
And I suspect that the devil attacks Moore College as best he can. He must have ways of attacking the Principal,the Lecturers,the Students,the Syllabus – anything he can do to bring down that particular valuable ministry of the Word.
This past week I have spent 3 days with the staff of the EV Church up on the Central Coast and the EV Church was planted by a Sydney Church on the Central Coast because they saw the Central Coast was in great need of Bible Churches and it was planted about 15 years ago with 30-40 people. There is now approximately 2000 people gathering – a Bible Church probably having more influence on the Central Coast than 20 or 30 or 40 other of the Anglican Churches that are weak in the Word. We must be thankful.
Do I need to tell you that the devil is going to rage against Biblical Ministries and Biblical Ministers?
Do I need to tell you that the devil will find ways to bring down a Minister and bring down a ministry?
But he will probably rejoice to see the Word get put away in a church and replaced with pep talks or man-centred messages or sheer ritual which means nothing. That would make him extremely happy. Anything but telling the Word of God.
But people need the Word of God and we see the example of this in Jesus going straight to the Synagogue to preach and we see the power of the Word of God as he speaks to a man who is demon-possessed. That’s why Jesus has come.
Friends,your life at the moment might be quite easy. The Word of God may not be all that urgent to you but we need the Word of God every day. We don’t live by bread alone but we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God and there will come a day where the Word of God will be deeply deeply precious.
And some of the Christians who are suffering around the world are treasuring the promise of God. So that’s why Jesus is always teaching. He hasn’t come to fix the world and turn it into a perfect place – he’s come to get people ready for eternity and that’s why he announces the Kingdom.
I don’t know what issues are flying around your head at the moment. I can’t remember a time when my head has been spinning more with things to do,with family,with people,with full diary,with griefs and so many things spinning around my head. There are a thousand voices in my head at the moment and I need to take my head and I need to put it very carefully on the Word of God,trust it and obey it – and you do too. So that’s Listen Well to Jesus’ Words.
Second point – Look Well at Jesus’ Deeds. (verses 29-34). There is no preaching in verses 29-34 – there is Jesus’ actions or deeds. And you’ll see that Jesus is more than just a talker,is more than just a preacher,he has very great authority but he also deeply loves people and that’s why in verse 29 he goes into the home of Simon and Andrew.
Incidentally I read in my commentaries they have located this home in Capernaum. It must be a wonderful thing to do Archaeology and locate what is obviously the home – as they have located the Synagogue built on top of a synagogue that is the original synagogue is underneath.
Anyway he goes into Simon and Andrew’s home – Simon’s mother-in-law has a fever. The word “fever” is the word in the original that has to do with fiery temperature and in the 1st Century this was not just a small thing where you took some antibiotics – this was often a fatal thing which took you out of this world. And so when we read that she was sick with a fever,it’s serious.
And Jesus goes in his compassion and he heals her and the word is “he raises her”. Probably a little window or foretaste of the great Resurrection to come.
So he has now done 2 miracles on the Sabbath. He sent a demon out of a man in the Synagogue and he has lifter this mother-in-law of Peter from her sick bed and now the evening comes and the Sabbath is over and the people of the village feel that it’s free now to be able to do some action and so they all start to bring every single sick person they possibly can find to the house and they pile into the house. If you want to know the numbers (we are told in verse 34) its MANY are made well.
In fact there is no indication that Jesus had any problem with any sickness – completely masterful over whatever was brought to him and we begin to realise what a King he is. Not just powerful over the cosmic world but he is compassionate over this world and deeply and deeply committed to people. And I just can’t image what that evening must have been like. I always remember John Chapman saying that if you could just imagine what it would have been like that first evening when people were just piling in,bringing all the people who were being sick and sad,on stretches,the blind and the lepers and Chapo said ‘Channel 7 helicopter and Channel 9 helicopter were all buzzing above it and a few days later he said quite rudely ‘the ABC helicopter finds out and comes in’!! It must have been an unbelievable night as Jesus healed.
So what do we see as we think about this King?
We see that he calls people to follow.
We see that he has charge of spiritual forces.
We see that he has charge of physical illnesses.
And all of this is designed so that you will say he is the ablest and the most willing king in the universe and I will trust him and I will give myself to him and I will not pull back from him and I won’t try and live a double life. He is very great and he is very good and I am going to be devoted to him. That’s the point of this.
He hasn’t come into the world to bandage the world up.
He has come to prove that he is God’s Son so that you will trust him.
He is heading towards the cross because that’s the only way our sins will be paid and there will be a way into glory.
But at the moment,he wants you to trust him.
It does amaze me therefore as we look at this power of Jesus and the love of Jesus,how people today who have got no understanding of the Bible whatsoever,can be so patronizing towards him. When you read in the New Testament how absolutely magisterial he is,you know that when a person is patronizing towards Jesus or mocks him,they have just made a huge mistake. When Jesus was being beaten up and whipped at his trial and exercised great patience,he is still in a way being beaten up and whipped and exercising great patience. It amazes me how people can be so dismissive of somebody so huge.
It also amazes me and saddens me how thankless people can be in the face of his goodness and his loving kindness.
I was driving this week listening to Talk Back Radio and the radio host (a very well known guy) was talking about a boy of 15 who had been injured very badly in a football game and was now in a coma and couldn’t do anything but lie on the slab of a table and blink with his eyes.
And the disc jockey to his credit said he went and visited the boy,held his hand,ruffled his hair and the boy could just look at him and blink and the DJ said he went back to his car and he wept. Then he said this “such a fine boy – there is no God”.
He was then joined a couple of minutes later by a TV Newsreader and the TV Newsreader and him were talking about the boy and the Newsreader said ‘not only had the boy recovered but he walked out of the hospital unaided’.
And I waited for the two men to say ‘there is a God’ but they didn’t – they said ‘what a brave boy,what self belief’. I felt deeply distressed by this.
You know if something goes wrong – blame God.
You know if something goes right – let’s congratulate ourselves.
The Bible does the complete opposite. The Bible says –
The problems are traceable to us.
The blessings are traceable to God.
So this is a very evil way of thinking,especially if we fix our mind on these sections of the New Testament. If somebody we loved was wrongly accused or deprived of recognition,we would be distressed by that.
Well friends,somebody everyday is accused of wrong and deprived of recognition and that’s why we are to pray in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘may his name be honoured’ and that’s why our witness is so important to stand up and speak for him.
So what have we seen in these two sections this morning? We have seen the power of his words and therefore you and I need to listen very carefully to them.
If you are grieving today – love the promises,
If you are afraid,if you have fallen into sin,if you are full of doubt – you need the promises.
There are people today in much more difficult circumstances who are treasuring his word.
We also see his love,especially in his deeds. These are the early deeds where he is performing miracles of healing but the great deed of course which is done FOR YOU is to take your place at Calvary and to carry the curse for you that you might receive all the blessing. And you and I need to put our mind on that and we need to ask God to keep us from getting stale and careless in the face of something which is so wonderful.
So do you notice the miracles have drawn a crowd? That’s what miracles do and of course some people are going to wake up and say ‘I’ll take Jesus seriously’ and some people are going to turn their back. It’s the word that brings opposition because it’s so clear and so plain and the enemies of Christ are going to hate the word and the people of Christ are going to love the word.
So that’s our King – two little paragraphs this morning. We see that he is a Teacher interested in everlasting blessing and we see that he is a lover showing that he has the willingness and the compassion to make things eventually well.
We prayed for Doreen this morning and the prayer this morning has been wonderfully answered really. We prayed for her care because she died this week and I got to see her just the day before. I said to her ‘you know the Lord loves you’ and she had a mask on and she couldn’t speak but she nodded quite vigorously. I said ‘you are not afraid of the future,are you?’ and she shook her head quite vigorously. And then went to be with the Lord. So she would have treasured these promises and she would have been deeply grateful for Christ’s compassion. And you and I need them both.
Let’s pray together –
Our Father we give you thanks this morning that you have shown us again the great authority of the Lord Jesus,the complete mastery,the command. We thank you too that we see in these verses the deep compassion,the love,the healing and the beauty. We pray that you would incline our hearts to Christ. That you would help us to not only trust him but also obey him. We pray that you would help us to tell where we can of his greatness and his goodness.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.